Some weeks has passed since the great Swedeman Extreme Triathlon in Åre Sweden. As you know by now, I seem to subscribe to fourth places, and a fourth place I took! Swedeman is the last addition to the Xtri tour, of which I have done the absolute majority (ans several similar triathlons). Remains are the 2 in Canada and Alaska, as well as Janosic in Slovakia…
But before taking you through the days before and the race day, I need to thank my facilitators;
Charlotta Oom – who lets me do epic shit
Family Samuelsson and Patrik Sjögren – who gave me an offer I couldn’t resist
Colting Wetsuits – enabling me the smoothest swim
Garmin Sweden – training with precision
Simcoachen – endlessly trying to improve my poor technique
Nordic Wellness – providing me with training options all over Sweden and over the whole year!
GoCoCo Socks – no chafing with your support!
O2Extreme – the obvious choice of club
Racepaddle – sharpest paddles on the planet
VJ crew – Great breakfast and great shoes
Icebug – Traction in all weathers
Swedemancrew – for putting up a great race – super well organized.
Anyway, the streak started with 4th place in Celtman Extreme Triathlon – the complete saga. continued with the 4th Place at Swissman Extreme Triathlon, and 10th place at Norseman Extreme Triathlon, and after a year of some injuries StoneBrixiaMan 4th place . Last year I surprised everyone with a second [sic!] place on ThorXtri!
When I learned about Swedeman, I immediately understood that I had no choice but participating. After doing 5 Extreme triathlons, there was really no choice but beeing part of the inaugural race in Sweden. I have also spent some time in Åre and I know that the scenery is fantastic. I also realized that the preliminary course would be quite hard, and that especially the run would be a challenge to say the least…
So I enrolled very early and got a slot in the lottery. We were a good number of athletes from west Sweden that were very interested, and eventually a bunch of us enrolled. I think that the ones that didnt race this year may have plans for the coming year…
But enrolling to an Extreme triathlon is a bit like “it sounded like a good idea at the time”, and one easily forgets about all the training that one needs to do. Over the past autumn and winter, I had some quite big issues with one of my feet, preventing me from anything lika running. But despite averaging about 60 k monthly, I managed to run the Göteborgsvarvet 21 k @ 1:21 – not too bad considering virtually no training. I did train quite a lot during the spring though, as I had quite some extra time, but I also hurt myself by completing the Nordenskiöldsloppet, 220 km of cross country skiing in North Sweden. The race turned out to be quite tough this year, but I was in decent cross country form, having trained decently and performed 2 Vasaloppet this year. The problems with Nordenskiöldsloppet were two: 1) I had some bug in the system and 2) I didnt DNF (quit). The longer story is that I became successively weaker and weaker during the race day from about mid point. Somewhere there I started coughing some blood, most likely not too alarming just some irritated mucous membrane. At about 130-140 k, I fooled myself with convincing myself that “its not so long until finish” (but still the distance of a Vasaloppet), when I had been out for surely 12 hours and the dark rolled in and we had to take headlamps on. From that point I became slower and slower, and the 80-90 k to go would take easily 8-9 hours… The real problems only came when I had about 40-30 k left or so. I had been ridiculously slow, but still moving. I had taken at least 4 gels per hour (meaning that I totally took about 60 gels over the whole race…). But with only a few hours I started to have such short of breath that I had to stop and rest over my poles every now and then, difficult to breathe.
Conditions became worse and worse, and in the end it was obvious that I should have pulled out. the last 18 k also my headlamp abandoned me… But quitting at the right time is not easy, not when you have invested about 3000 kilometers of traveling by car, and 200 km into the race. Quitting seems to be no option – unless you would like to come back next year again. Being rational at that point is not easy – so I took the wrong decision and continued. Eventually I finished, and just minutes before the “medallion time” (21 hours 17 minutes), which by no standards is a fast time.
Watch the clip:
Next mistake was to let my great buddies from O2Extreme and SK Glädjen to take me home to the cabin – instead of visiting the race doctor. Saving the details of my conditions the coming hours and days, the summary is that I got pulmonary edema as well as two sided pneumonia.
I really recovered fast, based on the x-rays, the doctor couldnt believe that I was in such OK condition after all – “you should be much more sick based upon the tests and xray”… – but the planned 2 weeks as a triathlon coach at Playitas had to be cancelled (sorry, Svenska Triathlonförbundet that I couldnt make it…)
During the spring I got an offer I couldnt resist… I was contacted by Fredrik and Patrik. Fredrik was originally planning to race, but due to some injury he wasnt able to. Patrik was supposed to be his supporter. The basically called me up and offered me the best package deal possible. They were going up by car, had an apartment that was rented and offered me full support with staying in the apartment and full service during race day.
I like : “where do I sign…”
Really it was a very very kind offer, and with the addition of Fredriks family, I would become absolutely fully taken care of!
After a long magic summer, August approached and so did the race. I had still some major issues with sore feet preventing me from running, but biking and open water swimming had been really consistent. I had been prepared with great coaching by Simcoachen AnnaKarin Lundin and superior wetsuits from Colting Wetsuits. The Onsala Swimming team had done som real epic swims including swimming from Nidingen and also the (almost) 20 k Lygnern swim.
This time, I was going to race the Swedeman with a BMC TimeMachine, a full aero triathlon bike with my Zipp 808s. The Swedeman is a long rolling course of 205 kilometer and 2000 meter altitude gain, but I believe a tempo bike is the right choice on this course, as there are no real climbs, just up and down all the time.
I sent a lot of my equipment to Åre in advance with Fredrik, and came up with overnight train arriving on Friday morning. Timo, the VJ man took me for a great breakfast.
Registration was business as usual, but I was really impressed that the crew had attracted so many nationalities! Great fun! At the expo, I got this brilliant idea of buying a pair of neoprene gloves, as they actually were allowed. I figured they would provide me with better catch and a faster swim… But remember the rule ” dont try anything new on race day…”
Bike was tested and we went to the T1 for setting it up on Friday evening. The T1 is located at Swedens largest waterfall that we were actually supposed to swim under! from the bottom of the waterfall there was some hundred meters and a decent hill to run op to the T1.
We had a relaxing evening, and slept a few hours until early wake up call. We walked down to the shuttle bus that would take us to the swim start, me and Fredrik. He was actually planning to swim, and then DNF after the swim. Good choice of him, as the swim would be a very strong experience. The trip out to swim start was short, and we all started to get into our wetsuits. The location was just among some trees by e beach of the lake and really nothing special. You couldnt see the waterfall, and the wind was blowing a very strong headwind, surely 13-14 m/s.
The crew had arranged a nice ceremony with a native swede sining jojk, a very traditional type of swimming.
The start approached, and when the gun went off we ran from the beach. I made a quite tactic start, running far out in the shallow water, and then diving “jump-butterfly’s”, and I got myself in the best position, easily 10 meters ahead of the rest. A great example of experience and tactics 🙂 ?
A not so great example of experience of tactics was to use the brand new (yes untested) neoprene gloves. I took about 10 strokes in the water and quickly realized that the gloves was a no-no. How could I use them without trying them first. Thy filled with water like balloons and I had to face my rookie mistake and stop to take them off. Stoll shallow water, and I angrily tore them off and put them under my wetsuit… I just saw my precious position fade away and it seemed I was passed by easily 5-10 guys. Damn!
I started swimming and it was first quite difficult to get into rythmn. it always is, and with the choppy waves it was much worse. Water was really pleasant, and very shallow all the way. After half way, we were just a couple of guys together, and I thought I was still in about 5-10th position. I managed to stick to the feed of one guy, and we dropped the other guys in the pack somewhere with maybe 1 k to go. Now we saw the impressive waterfall, and after a sharp turn there was a few hundred meters över to the other side.
I got out of the water still believing I had a good bunch of people in front of me. I had prepared a special tactic, as I knew it would be hard to run up the steep hill with no blood in your legs and a wetsuit on, so I actually took everything off at the bottom by the waterfall. It took me some seconds, but then I could fly up the hill without beiing constrained by the wetsuit, and at the same time I got dressed with my biking outfit, just the jersey. everything else was in my pockets for a fast transition.
I came into the transition area first or second, but I just had to take my bike shoes on and I was off. But at the time I still thought I had several guys in front. I had again lost track of where I was positioned, but later I would learn that I was actually out of T1 first!
Most of my clothes I had in my bike jersey pockets. The support car with Patrik would take some time as he was waiting for Fredriks swim. In the beginning it was cold to bike, and it took quite some time to get my arm warmers, bike gloves and jacket on. Not that easy on a tempo bike that just screams “Faster” in the strong back wind, and I was still wet from the swim so everything got stuck.
Eventuellay everything was on. All of the sudden, I think near Åre, Graeme Steward came up to me for some nice words (before he dropped me like a stone). Surprises seem to be the feeling of the day, and yes, I was surprised that he wasnt in front. I was never told that I had mede such a great swim nor excellent T1.
I came into my rythmn, trying to be conservative on the many rolling hills, keeping an eye on my Garmin Vector watt meters all the time. It took forever, but eventuella Fredrik and Patrik came with the support car. I was in good mood, but really couldnt believe them when they claimed that I was second! only Greame was before me. I had to ask like 3 times if they were correct. After all, I had made a lousy swim start with the issue with my gloves and thought I had missed a bunch of people in the start.
The bike ride was actually quite nice. Beeing close to the front means that thera are not that many support vehicles that overtake you all the time. So the ride felt safe from that perspective. Not as safe was the wind. Several times it felt like i was going airborne with the side wind and my zipp 808’s… And still i am a grown up man…
The scenery was really nice, especially the loop away from the interstate road. in fact, I had prepared myself for a quite boring 205 km bike ride but it was much nicer than expected.
A Swede called stefan passed me at some point and first he seemed a big angry. but when I passed him and we chatted for a couple of seconds, he was really nice, just focussed. Strong biker, but we overtook each others all the time. I had already started to full up my bladder and had tried to empty it – the triathlon way. I am no expert at this, and it really takes forever. So every time I had to pee, Stefan put 500-1000 meter on me, which I had to fight in order to catch up. Then I had to pee again. Repeat.
So even though Maurten (I only used Maurten energy drink on the bike) is great, i had to stop and continue with gels only. Still my stomach was a bit full, but OK, minus the peeing.
The bike is long, and at about 170 k or so, Stefan started to drop off. soon, a norwegian strong biker came passed me. Graeme was miles ahead. Swedish miles, that is. I was told that he had put 6 minutes in 60 k on me in the beginning. And I was by no means slow. Kudos, no matter if those 6 minutes are exact or not.
So I was third when turned up towards Åre Björnen. I have boked those switchbacks before. it is a decent hill but we are not talking about Gotthardpass. But the problem was that I had this video crew like 5 meters ahead of me, so i just HAD to flex my muscles and push hard. After all, the important thing is the fighting spirit and looking good on the pictures, right? So hard you can push after those 205 k, that is.
I demounted the bike, and Fredrik took it. by calves were so stiff that i had to trip on my toes the 10 meters to my transition spot where Patrik had laid out my shit. Talking about body waste – i commanded Patrik to rinse my quite new great SIDI bike shoes. I have done that rookie mistake before to just put smelling stuff in a plastic bag for a day or two…
The T1 was acceptable and i hiked off up the mountain. A relief to stop after 100 meters to stop and pee a bit more relaxed. When I came into the forrest, the trail was very nice, but up and down all the time. Soon, I passed the norwegian guy, he had taken a small detour, but clearly his strength must have been the bike, as I never saw him (nor Stefan) again.
I carried on and came to the first aid station at 6 (?) k. I cant remember why, but I yelled a bit on them, I think it was due to some misunderstanding of the gels, but I quickly understood that it was only me beeing a bit stressed so I apologized to the great volunteers, I hope they understood.
Next stop Lillskutan in poor weather. Up there somewehere was my friend Timo, I was dead tired when I got there and just continued. Thanks for the cheering. Now down over the mountain towards Fröå gruva, After a while I could see several guys behind me, maybe 500 meters or so. shit.
I made it to Fröå, I think that was about 20 km into the race. some fast energy and refuelling my redbull coke that I was carrying by Patrik. Given my run form, i was now on overtime. my feet started hurting and i had to force myself to continue. running wasnt the bench mark, but moving was what i could do at that point.
I was just longing for Huså, at 32 k, where the final climb was to begin. I knew that from that point it had to be more of a walk than a run, and Patrik would be with me. But still 10-12 k to Huså. Nightmare, but still #2. I was passed by first one guy, Johannes Kiefer, who was running so lighty. I was just envious – i could run like that, but just not now… 2 k before Huså, after some nightmare swamps, i was passed by this other lightweight guy…. So obviously #4 now, right?
Huså was a relief, really the gate to the finish, although we expected 90-120 minutes to the top. It is soooo easy to fool yourself in such situations….
In Huså, which was very well arranged with a mandatory 2 minute gear check (very good practice making it very fair to everyone) there was some confusion, and for the second (ok Patrik, the third…) time today i yelled a bit on a volunteer. Again – sorry, but I realized my bad immediately. Fredrik/Patrik told me one thing and the volunteers told me something else, the issue was cleared after maybe 1 second… 🙂
Some energy and the kit check and off we went. Well Patrik flied off, and I just started walking. Later, I would learn that he had been just a bit worried that i would be too strong for him. Boy if he was wrong. I had nothing left just then.
We powerwalked up the slope and almost missed some signs taking us into the trail. we were lucky, or rather Patrik had both been reconning before, and was thinking clearly. 1 or 2 others were not that lucky, as we later MUCH later would learn that we were actually now back in second place, even though we were convinced that we were 4th.
One guy, Johannes Kiefer, had continued up and completely missed the entry to the trail, that was the runner that passed med just after Fröå. A pity for him, as he was solid and would have taken the second spot if it wasnt for the bad turn. where the other guy (the one passing me 2 km before Huså) went is still a mystery. maybe he is still on the mountain?
Anyway, we were convinced of beeing in forth place, which is standard procedure as you know for me. We powerwalked almost all the time. my feet was hurting but i was OK in terms of energy in general. It was “just” my feet and legs that were smashed. No real serious cramps. like i had several times before, for instance in Stoneman, where I thought my achilles tendons would snap in my step.
We were approaching the summit, slow, but steadily. I “ran” for a few meters where I could. when approaching one of the first summits, a whole bunch of people approached from behind. My main concern was just to continue, i was number fourth anyway, right? So i lost one position to Simon from Norway, but several was on the way up from behind. when i came close to the real summit (the finish is about 1500 m after the summit), i was told by the supporter of Greame that I and a guy close by were number 3 and 4. i couldnt believe it. didnt dare to believe it.
I and patrik was passed just then by Patrik Viklund and came into fourth. no gas in the tank to respond to the guy just passing me. We clombed over the crest, with maybe 300 meters lost to the third guy. a friend told us that we were REALLY number 4 now, so the last intel was right.
Had I only known this half way up from T2A/Huså…. Could I then have made anything differently?
With only the downhill of 1500 meters left, i got so pumped with adrenaline that I totally forgot about the coming cramps and the more-than-hurting-a-lot feet. I flew down and for a second thought i could catch #3. The shift from a sloggy walking to flying down came so fast that neither Patrik my support, nor Christian from Maurten could keep up with me for a while. When strong, my long legs and childhood running over boulders has given me quite good speed over difficult rocky terrain.
No way I could catch Patrik Viklund, but probably made up 200 meters on him. Eventually we were separated by like 40 seconds. 3 minutes separated second to fourth place… That after 13 hours on the road (mountain)… Greame had finished an hour earlier – massive kudos to him…
I slowed down the last few meters before the goal at Kabinbanan, and me at Patrick finished.
What a race. Maria was there documenting the whole thing, and I was so relieved it was over that I came into tears.
The question WHY remains to be answered.
Maria, so caring, had prepared some champagne for celebrating the finish, and I was so impressed by that. Later I should also learn that some mystery friend had ordered some coffee/beer and buns to my party at the restaurant at Kabinbanan, but we went down before those could be delivered. But that stubborn and thoughtful guy didnt give up (he never does), and had something delivered to my house later. #nevergiveup…
So again, big thanks to the organizers and everyone that puts their passion into making something so wonderful. And than you all my supporters along the road….
Coming up next: Berlin marathon, known as the WORLDS fastest marathon, and will be known as MY slowest marathon, as well as the Swimrun Finale of the Year, Koster Swimrun.